[FASHION REVIEW] Paris Fashion Week Review

text by Adam Lehrer

I usually preamble my fashion week round-ups about how the written-about fashion city stacks up against the others, for example: “New York Fashion Week is very commercial but is experiencing a conceptual renaissance.” Something to that effect. Believe me, I know how trite writing these introductions can be. Let’s face it: the fashion industry can look ridiculous to those on the outside. Designers try to imbue their ideas with politics, art, and concepts in what basically amounts to a glorified sales pitch. But in a recent interview about his film ‘The Neon Demon,’ which takes place in the modern fashion world, filmmaker Nik Refn was asked what fashion means to him: “It's melodramatic, emotional, creative; a little bit creepy but also very campy.”

Paris Fashion Week is all of those things. It’s fashion at its best and fashion at its worst. We live in a capitalist world, and creative commerce is the only thing that can push culture forward within a capitalist system. Paris is the center of fashion. To show a collection in Paris is to get signed to the Yankees in baseball. That seal of approval and commercial visibility has enabled Paris-based designers to make grand conceptual gestures to an audience of millions upon millions. While technology has radically altered the way we communicate, fashion has radically progressed ideals of gender, race, and beauty. With Milan being too steeped in antiquated Italian notions of glamour (with exceptions), London designers working in a more cult and hype-driven business model (with exceptions), and New York being far too dictated by conservative retail outlets (with exceptions), Paris is and seemingly always will be ground zero for delivering radical concepts through the medium of fashion design on a global scale. As Nik Refn points out, fashion is an industry no different than the film industry; it’s entertainment. But as technology has enabled us to interact with the fashion industry with previously unprecedented access, it has become the primary entertainment industry for shifting societal norms. With Hollywood cinema having become the medium of The Avengers and popcorn sleaze, the fashion industry has taken center stage as our most important capitalist art form. If Paris Fashion Week is the epicenter of the industry, than it is 2016’s version of what Hollywood cinema was to 1976: a commercially robust platform that enables its audience to question what is presented to them.

(note: this list is in no particular order, all these collections were too good for that)

Saint Laurent Spring-Summer 2017

Hedi who? Sorry for the pun, but I’m mostly serious. I liked some things about Hedi Slimane’s tenure at Saint Laurent: his photography, bringing couture back to the house, and his ability to take creative control over the brand’s entire marketing strategy. But despite his doubling of the brand’s annual take, I never much liked the clothes. I never bought into the whole, “Bringing back Saint Laurent to its rock n’ roll roots.” There is no way that Yves Saint Laurent ever listened to anything that didn’t have a number and the word “symphony” in its title. Of course there were some great pieces delivered during his tenure, but Saint Laurent should be an innovator. The leather jackets were great, but they weren’t any better than Schott Perfecto’s. Yves did believe in taking normal and easy-to-wear pieces and making them incredible. But I’m sorry Hedi, there is nothing incredible about a pair of cut-off denim shorts, no matter how expensive you make them.

And that brings us to Spring-Summer 2017, the first Saint Laurent collection designed by Anthony Vacarello. I was watching SHOWStudio’s live panel on the collection, and typically they had nasty things to say about Vacarello’s first collection for the label, particularly about how over-sexed the models looked in Vacarello’s clothes. Seriously? We’ve gotten so sensitive that a designer can’t make his models look sexy? Vacarello focused on the sexiest era of Saint Lauren’t history, opening the show with a puffed shoulder dress from 1982 that he re-created in black leather. There was much leather that followed: a bustier paired with jeans, a bomber jacket with exaggerated shoulders, a trench over a black dress, a blazer. But where Vacarello excelled in his leather was its silhouettes; each piece was cut and/or shaped in an odd but appealing way (certainly something that Hedi never did with his addiction to skin tight everything). There was see-though shirts, gold lamé, breast exposing dresses, and everything tailored and sharp. I’m really not understanding the criticism aimed at this excellent debut collection. If my girlfriend came out of our bedroom wearing any one of those pieces my jaw would hit the floor. That is what what Yves wanted to do for women: make them feel like the best versions of themselves (my jaw notwithstanding). 

Koche Spring-Summer 2017

Streetwear with a couture twist is a certified trend in fashion at the moment, from the damaged luxury of Berlin’s Ottolinger to Demna Gvasalia’s reign over Balenciaga. But there is still something extraordinary about designer Christelle Kocher’s approach to haute street at her two time LVMH-nominated label Koché. Kocher also serves as artistic director of Maison Lemarié, which provides Karl Lagerfeld with the feathers he needs to make Chanel. Therefore, with Koché she is able to indulge her laissez-faire attitude towards clothing while bringing her rebellious sensibility a remarkable sense of craft and skill. She really wants to make you the last hoodie you’ll ever need to buy.

For the SS 2017 Koché collection, Kocher took inspiration from her fellow Parisian industry standard flouting renegades at Vetements and subverted the fashion show. She allowed public guests to sit at the show space of Les Halles while forcing industry insiders to stand (as someone who has personally witnessed a buyer make an elderly woman get up from his seat at a show, that brings me immense satisfaction). The models, a notable multi-racial pack of street-casted youths and Kocher’s friends, walked top speed around the perimeter of the show space several times. This performative gesture had editors trying to focus in extra hard on the clothes to catch all their unique detailings. A parka in sweatshirt fabric was frilled with black lace, track jackets were reconstructed through the reassembling of disparate pieces of silk, hoodies were transformed into Dracula capes, and summer dresses came in vibrant colors of the sunset and were paired with low top combat boots. I love Vetements, clearly, but unfortunately the buzz around that label has distracted from the fact that Demna is one of many designers leading a renaissance of artful fashion in Paris. Christelle Kocher is right up there with him in the front.

Balenciaga Spring-Summer 2017

Between Balenciaga and Vetements, Demna Gvasalia has created so many signatures silhouettes at this point that he can start to tweak and embellish them without having to change his whole approach season to season. There is no designers being more ripped off by high fashion right now (except for Issey Miyake’s pleats, oddly enough): Jil Sander employed Gvasalia’s hulking shoulder pads, Dior just did print t-shirts, Veronique Branqhino put out a hoodie for chrissakes’! Considering Gvasalia’s success, the mimicry shouldn’t surprise anyone. One thing is certain, however, and that is that no one does what Gvasalia does as radical or disruptive as he does. I even find myself looking forward to seeing new work from Demna, the same way that I look forward to the next Scorsese film or Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition. Other than Raf Simons, there’s no other designers on Earth that instills in me that insatiable fandom.

The Balenciaga Spring-Summer 2017 collection saw Demna incorporating even more Vetements touchstones into the Balenciaga ethos. It’s been wonderful to watch how despite Demna’s penchant for freak flagging that his approach to fashion design feels so right at the house. It’s about structure. It’s about shape. It’s about idiosyncratic notions of glamour. In the Vetements SS 2017 collection we saw Demna collaborate on waist high stilettos with Manohlo Blahnik in leather, and here we see a similar product in waist-high heels that double as pants or tights. In spandex no less? Since Eddie Murphy championed the fabric as skinny version of The Nutty Professor, the fabric has lost its haute connotations; but Demna rectified that with these hard-to-turn-away-from shoes. Then there were the hulking shoulders even further exaggerated by the use of whale bone. A nylon rain parka was made seductive with see through fabric. A little red riding hood was made black and mutated into shiny PVC fabric. Demna’s use of slight tweaks to make the ordinary divine will keep him in free Balenciaga baseball caps for a long time to come.

Side note: I also loved the use of Chris Issak on the soundtrack. It furthers my view that Demna is almost post-taste in his cultural references, bouncing back between standard artist approved post-punk like Sisters of Mercy to total pop cheese. It really nails our current culture on the head, one in which hipsters no longer care about what music is cool and care more about irony and individualism.

Y Project Spring-Summer 2017

A couple seasons ago, Y Project was one of the more skippable shows of the Paris menswear schedule. The late Yohan Serfaty started the label as a menswear brand seriously indebted to the gothic pea-cocking of Rick Owens and fashion unanimously agreed upon the fact that we already have the only Rick Owens we will ever need. So when Glenn Maartens took over the label after Serfaty’s passing, he totally departed from the label’s original aesthetic. Since adding womenswear to the label’s repertoire, the label has received gobs of praise and a nomination for this year’s LVMH Prize, not to mention beloved conceptual stockists including Dover Street Market, Opening Ceremony, and Machine-A.

Maartens has a sense of humor, and his light sensibilities allow for incredibly palatable abstraction in his ingenious fashion creations. His SS 2017 collections, his second for womenswear, found the designer employing styling techniques to achieve a bit of shock. But everything here was actually wearable and built to be styled in different ways: adjustable sleeves, loosening bustiers, laced dresses. There was also some fun play with sexual provocation: the white denim chaps, for instance, barely concealed the model’s ass crack. Or the halter top that coiled at the waist and used an unbuttoned neck to conceal the model’s considerable boobs. I can see Y Project particularly appealing to young female artists that are hustling Instagram and making a little doh but are far from financial security. These are easy-to-wear clothes that are embellished and specialized enough to be adored by the buyer and also beg the buyer to wear them from day to night. Maartens is shaping up to be one of the most malleable conceptualists in fashion design.

Junya Watanabe Spring-Summer 2017

After a couple much derided seasons of racially on the nose sentiment, Junya Watanabe has come fiercely back doing what he does best: making the most structurally complex garments a human being could conceivably want to wear. While his menswear show was full of simple summer pieces adorned in tough to beautiful looking prints, his SS 2017 womenswear collection was complicated. Like artists ranging from Nick Cave to Lydia Lunch to David Bowie to Jeffrey Eugenides did before him, Junya hung out in Berlin to pick up inspiration for this collection. Also like those artists, the city’s dark and abstract culture and landscape had an aesthetic impact on this cyberpunk-leaning collection.

With Berlin-based conceptual fashion magazine 032C and its emphasis on the global merging and mutually beneficial relationship of streetwear and couture seeing its influence reverberate throughout the industry, it appears that Junya has taken note. He paired his highly abstracted geometrically stacked satin art museum pieces with slashed tights, cowboy boots, silver leather skirts, denim shorts, band t-shirts, and silver bomber jackets. There were really only two ideas here, but Junya can stretch an idea so long that an aesthetic universe pours out of it. You can see the nightclub where people are wearing these clothes: speed is being injected in lieu of cocaine, it smells of old puke and piss, bad graffiti adorns the bathroom walls, and Psychic TV is always playing on the speakers. Instead of “elevating streetwear to the level of couture,” as we are seeing in the cases of myriad designers, Junya simply decided to style couture with streetwear and create one incredibly succinct look. He is making Japanese fashion design palatable to a global audience without losing any conceptual credentials.

Haider Ackermann Spring-Summer 2017

I really love Haider Ackermann’s work. I put him in a similar category to designers like Rick Owens and Phoebe Philo; designers that can work a similar idea for a few seasons because there is simply no one else who does what he does. His work always has that bourgeois family black sheep vibe: the man or woman who decides not to enter the family business instead opting for a life of opulence, decadence, smoking, drinking, drugs, casual sex, and creative endeavors. You know whoever that person is dresses fabulously.

This was Ackermann’s first collection since being named creative director of heritage luxury French menswear house Berluti (an inspired casting choice if there was ever one, I can’t be alone in being rabid in anticipation for the punk spin he will put on the brand’s classicist and wildly expensive products). Ackermann is moving away from the draping that made him famous and this collection employed razor sharp tailoring to achieve an exacting if striking silhouette. Despite its precision, the collection still made use of flourishes of rebellion: jackets slashed at the waist, neon two-toned drainpipe leather trousers, a blood spattered jacquard coat, and that wildly spiky hair all screamed, “I’d like to excuse myself from this dinner table to smoke bowls full of opium and hash on my red velvet couch listening to Ornette Coleman.” There were also some more pleats here, also ripped off from Issey Miyake’s wildly copied Plissé line, but Ackermann’s choice to create a wide pleat skirt brightly colored yellow felt less on the nose than other recreations of the textile idea.

Loewe Spring-Summer 2017

Jonathan Anderson’s reinvention of Spanish luxury house cannot be denied: in just two years time he transformed what amounted to a small novelty act into a major Paris Fashion Week event. He did this by honing in on exactly who his customer is. What has separated Anderson from his fellow Central Saint Martin’s-educated young London designers is his unbridled understanding and embracing of fashion’s business side. Noting that his menswear audience at his own label largely consists of gay men, he live-streamed a show on hookup app Grindr. Identifying his Loewe woman as an older cultured lady of means, he decorated the set of his Loewe Spring-Summer 2017 show with ceramics, lamps, and video screens playing an art film. The Loewe woman has a deep appreciation of objects, and Anderson brings rarified objects by the dozens.

Working with one flowing and unstructured silhouette, Anderson put on a fabric clinic: cotton and nylon, patchwork and plissé, raw edges and fringes, jersey and fine leather. There was a hinting at the Spanish luxury of Loewe with dresses recalling those worn by women from 19th century Spanish villages. Everything here looked expensive, as it should, because these clothes are extremely expensive. And that’s not even mentioning the wide diversity of shoes, bags and accessories that will give Loewe fans more buying options than any collection the house has ever put out. Of all the creative director-driven brand reinventions of the last 10 years; Hedi at Saint Laurent, Raf at Dior, Galliano at Margiela; Anderson’s reinvention of Loewe is by far the most radical and arguably the most successful, considering the relative obscurity of the brand before his hiring. 

Comme des Garcons Spring-Summer 2017

You don’t watch Comme des Garcons' main line collections anymore to find new pieces to buy. You watch it to feel awe. Rei Kawakubo has been slowly emerging as something more akin to a conceptual artist than a conceptual fashion designers, at least in her womenswear collections. Of course the dozens of other subdivisions she designs weld tons of clothes that you can’t wait to get your hands on: CdG Homme, CdG shirt, CdG black, etc.. But all those brands financially support the pure creations that Kawakubo devises for her Comme des Garcons show. Of all her artistically grandiose recent collections, from the red blood soaked and Sunn O)))-soundtracked SS 2015 show to the punk empresses of FW 2016, Kawakubo’s SS 2016 collection might just be her most exquisite yet.

The hulking sculptures in the collection beg countless meanings. Sarah Mower noted the girth of the stomach linings as potentially being a comment on being a woman (“pregnant with meaning,” she put it) or perhaps simply examining Kawakubo’s contributions to the medium and examining where to go from here with it. But I don’t really care about attaching any meaning to her work. Like all great art, Kawakubo’s work begs personal projection on the part of the viewer. When necessary, I prefer to lay back, shut my brain off, and bask in the glow of pure creation.

Off-White Spring-Summer 2017

While its clearly a beloved label, Virgil Abloh’s Off-White often feels like its critical praise is dimmed under the considerable glow of contemporaries like Matthew Williams, Demna Gvasalia, and Glenn Maartens. I will continue to challenge this notion, because Virgil’s vision is just as succinct and unique as his friends and collaborators. Off-White’s SS 20177 collection explored the conflicted notion of the modern business woman. Of course, that left the door wide open.

Abloh envisioned these women in everything from jeans (made with Levi’s Made and Crafted) to pants suits, track suits to stunningly draped evening gowns. But Abloh’s real trick is the sell. This collection could easily look like two separate collections from two very different designers. But Abloh’s nonchalant approach to presentation, complete with a new wave soundtrack and Frank Ocean finale, felt exceedingly modern and customer aware. For the Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid types, this is who they are. They can go out in the day with a hoodie and bootie shorts and wear a Versace gown later that night and still look scarily hot in both the photos. Abloh, a rapid pop culture and art consumer, also employed some Mondrian colors in both tie-dye pants and a color blocked patchwork sweater. He loves aesthetics, and has the ability to make his very Tumblr-fried diverse tastes work for a high fashion pack. I just wish he’d start showing in New York. No designers gets the tastes of young New Yorkers better than Abloh.

Rick Owens Spring-Summer 2017

A beautifully pained Nina Simone soundtrack. An ethereally industrial Palais de Tokyo setting. Shapes, cuts and drapes that you’ve never seen before. An evocative and theatrical mood that most designers could only dream of achieving. Voila: another incredible Rick Owens show.

I’m almost sick of including Rick Owens on every Paris round-up and near purposefully left him off this one (perhaps to shine line on a newer voice like Lutz Huelle, Alyx, or Vejas, or even another brilliant Nicholas Ghesquiere Louis Vuitton outing), but upon second viewing I had to include Rick. He’s the most idiosyncratic fashion designer of my generation. No other fashion designer can make such emotionally gut-wrenching statements while still holding true to his position as a man who needs to sell clothes to survive and keep his business afloat. Like last season, there was lots of the now-signature Rick draping methodology, where mounds of fabric are used to make a perfect wearable garment into something more transportive. The dresses, in a beautiful muted color palette of black, purple, yellow, and white, saw creases folded on top of one another like an ancient sculpture. Towards the end, those dresses came under capes made of loosely weaved yarn, not totally unlike Luke’s clothing choices in the icy beginning of The Empire Strikes Back. Rick has total confidence in his unique conception of beauty and, it’s true, no one else could create this kind of beauty quite like he does.  

Fashion Review: Paris Fashion Week SS 2017

Text by Adam Lehrer

Paris Fashion Men’s Week was in typical fine form, re-invigorating my own lust for fashion after a dreary Milan and an uneven London. Though the two shows I’m usually most excited for, those by Raf Simons and Gosha Rubchinskiy, already played out in Florence, their absence didn’t deter my attention. That would be mainly because of one man: Demna Gvasalia. Demna introduced Balenciaga’s first menswear show in history. The expectations between that notion, not to mention Vetements being the coolest brand in fashion and all that, were colossal. How did Demna respond to this soul crushing pressure? By creating entirely new menswear silhouettes. He needed not to flash or bedazzle, and instead created new shapes. A new shape in menswear comes along maybe once a decade, and that achievement can’t be downplayed. The hype around this guy is so high that in some ways you want to find things about him to critique: ridiculously expensive DHL t-shirts, all white models, pop stars using his clothes to look alternative, or whatever. But then I see the new Vetements collection and I’m just like, “Fuck.” I want all of it. Though entirely different than what he does at Vetements, Balenciaga had me similarly drooling.

And that wasn’t it. Rick Owens offered a radical showing of near-unwearable pieces that were beautiful and sprinkled with just enough accessibility to keep the buyers happy. Junya Watanabe offered his first show in a few seasons that didn’t generate racist controversy while introducing his knack for near-perfectly constructed everyday workwear. Dries Van Noten offered an incredible show that played out like a celebration of the beauty and art of fabric itself.

But Demna seems to be the designer ushering in a new era of fashion; just like Raf did before him, and Margiela before him, and Rei before him, and Yves before her. We are witnessing a designer reinvent the way hip kids dress. And the thing about the ways in which the hip kids dress is that there will always be the square types to catch on at some point, and next thing you know is that a seismic shift in the way people dress has occurred. Architectural suit shoulders might just be the new skinny trousers.

Balenciaga SS 2017: Architectural Solutions to a New Men’s Wardrobe

Demna Gvasalia asked and answered a series of sartorial questions with the Balenciaga SS 2017 menswear show. Can Balenciaga place as much importance on its menswear as its womenswear? Can menswear, in fact, be haute couture? Are there any new silhouettes waiting to be applied to a men’s wardrobe? And can a sleep Balenciaga collection still be in-line with the punker Eastern European aesthetic of Vetements? Yes, yes, yes, and fuck yes.

Demna Gvasalia is already understanding and re-interpreting the vision of Cristóbol Balenciaga in a way that Alexander Wang never could. The SS 2017 collection started with an unfinished Balenciaga coat that was then altered into an un-fitted, albeit beautifully fitted, tan trench coat. Like Balenciaga, Gvasalia understands that clothes need not to be over-adorned to be valuable. Instead, it’s all about fit and proportions. Clothes really stand out when either chic-ly loose, such as the incredible pleated double-breasted blazers, or skin tight, like the collection’s shirting and double-breasted jackets. As fas as patterning goes, everything here was fairly basic and isn’t far off from a J. Crew suit. But the structures made it revolutionary. All of these garments would need to be specially tailored for the client to achieve that revolutionary banality.

The collection got more “Demna” as it went on: snakeskin boots (dope), leather jackets and coats cut to similar proportions as the suits, cropped bomber jackets with the shoulders blown out, and dad caps. Everything here looked so different than anything I’ve ever seen, while being kind of similar to everything I’ve ever seen. Balenciaga has found its man in Demna Gvasalia, indeed.

Gvasalia is a capital D designer, which is what the brand needed. He has an intimate understanding of Balenciaga’s approach to clothes, but he is individualist enough to still filter his own sensibilities into it. The casting of disheveled Eastern European iconoclasts was as presents at it was at Vetements shows, with Vetements must and burdgeoning zine arist Paul Hameline making an appearance, styled by Lotta Volkova of course.

Balenciaga SS 2017 made we want to both get rich enough to afford, and get skinny enough to wear it. And fashion on this level SHOULD seem exclusive. It SHOULD make us want to work for it. That’s the point: if it feels within grasp than it’s just not really high fashion. In her book Fear and Clothing, culture critic and former NY Times Critical Shopper Cintra Wilson dedicates a passage to the fact that fashion has been at a standstill for some 20 years now; since Margiela came on to the scene really. But Demna, with Vetements and now Balenciaga, is really offering NEW styles of dress. Yes there is some indebtedness to the aforementioned Margiela and certainly to Balenciaga himself, but these are new shapes. And new shapes breed new styles.

Facetasm SS 2017: From Japan to Paris, Hiromichi Ochiai Sticks to his Guns

LVMH-shortlisted Hiromichi Ochiai has been showing his brand Facetasm (pronounced “FASS-e-Ta-sum,” according to the designer) in his home base of Tokyo since 2013. After being acknowledged as one of fashion design’s brightest talents and getting the chance to show in fashion’s conceptual heartland of Paris, you’d think the pressure would be stacked high on the man. But he stuck to his guns with this collection. Facetasm SS 2017 fit well on the Paris schedule, bringing some fresh design ideas to the city putting it along the likes of Vejas, Y Project, Faith Connexion, and other youthful brands reflecting Paris’s newfound status as a centre of radical creativity.

Ochiaii has a tendency to turn a simple product, like a leather jacket or a trench or a bomber, into a piece of clothing you see and can’t leave V-Files or Dover Street without. That was certainly in play here with v-neck kimono shirts that came embroidered with stripes, checkered bomber jackets with floppy collars and accompanying baggy basketball shorts, leather vests that look like gun holsters, and those aforementioned leather jackets with striped sleeves treated to look like they carry years of age. Ochiai’s approach looks odd and discombobulated, but broken down into products it will speak to a wide variety of fashion-crazed customers.

Yohji Yamamoto SS 2017: A Master Finds New Territory in Old Tricks

The thing about the Japanese master Yohi Yammamoto is that he knows exactly who his customers are and delivers the products they want season after season. 40 years into his career, he’s a cult designer (it’s a very large cult, but still). His collections range from good to sublime, but his masterfully crafted and heavily draped workwear jackets and trousers are always there. While certainly not a designer focused on nostalgia, Yohji’s collections present themselves as being removed from time. They are neither modern nor antiquated. The wearer has his look and there is no need to change it according to contemporary standards of beauty.

Yohji’s SS 2017 was one of his sublime collections. The show featured a number of tough looking (as tough as a modern male model could look anyways) guys wearing bandages on their heads, ankles, and wrists. The silhouettes were long but not baggy. They hung off the body enough to draw attention to the garment but not to overshadow the wearer. The trousers were big, and those in cotton looked soft as a Husky puppy. And what made this more than just a collection of good Yohji pieces were the embroidered prints that peppered everything from blazers to overcoats. Souvenir jackets are getting popular again amongst hip crowds, and why not? They are a great and comfortable statement piece that can be bought on Etsy for $80. But Yohji took the souvenir motif and applied it to beautifully constructed trench coats, crafted well enough to outlast any trend. Yohji never begs his customers to buy every piece. He has his Y-3 collection to make the big money. But his eponymous line always just presents his customers with new pieces that they can incorporate to their already well-curated and iconoclastic wardrobe. Those customers could certainly do well with some of these pieces. This was my favorite Yohji show in a long time.

Y Project SS 2017: Badass and Dandy (No Longer Mutually Exclusive States of Being)

Under the late Yohan Serfaty, who started Y Project in 2011, the brand was a little Rick Owens-lite. The problem with presenting a dark, moody, and billowing aesthetic these days is that there is no way you are going to do it better than Rick, and certainly no one will want it more than they want Rick. LVMH-shortlisted designer Glenn Martens understood that when he took over Y Project in 2013 and took the brand in a similarly aggressive but alternatively off-beat direction. Martens makes clothes for men and women that alternate between feminine and harsh, bright and dark, deconstructed and well-tailored. It’s a label of contrasts, and one that is great fun to buy into.

His SS 2017 at some points felt like a celebration of 1960s Havana gangster style: big and well-made suits, sometimes in pink. But a look later and a guy comes down the runway wearing a flower-printed see-through tank-top with the dude’s midriff totally exposed. It takes a lot of panache to wear this stuff, and I think Martens likes it like that. He likes daring his customers, “Put this on, c’mon, don’t be a wuss.” There were of course still looks that others could wear, like the dope elongated-sleeved leather jackets, or the trench coats that can be worn from the front and the back. To say Y Project’s aesthetic is all over the place is totally inaccurate. Instead, it juxtaposes two opposing dominant looks and clashes them together, allowing the wearer to look both alternative and tough while also looking (very) in touch with his feminine side.

Haider Ackermann SS 2017: Every Piece Should Be a Statement Piece

If you like Haider Ackermann you’re going to like Haider Ackermann’s SS 2017 collection. The Argentinean designer has a way to turn even the simplest pieces into a statement. A hoodie and sweats becomes a perfectly fitted and made garment under his design. Also, what’s even more admirable about the guy is that you can always wear his stuff your own way. His shows are more a suggestion of styling than a demand. His bomber jackets look as good with a pair of tight Levi’s as they do his skin-tight pinstriped silk trousers (Kanye showed us that).

Haider’s SS ’17 collection was exuberant. The blazers, skin-tight as per usual, were eye-blindingly bright and printed with some exotic motif. I loved the disco shirts that were tucked in with only the bottom button fastened; one had pink sleeves that fell inches below the model’s wrist. The aforementioned trousers came in every fabric and every imaginable print, more to the point that Haider’s clothes can be worn with denim, leather, or satin bottoms. It depends on the wearer really. There were women’s look in the shows too, that were often much darker than the dandified menswear looks. There is probably some statement in there, but who knows.

It’s also nice to have a fashion designer that makes garments that really pop with flash and style. Being an occasionally broke and mostly bad with money young writer and photographer, when I spring for a piece that I really want I really want it to be something that doesn’t look like it has a cheaper alternative. Haider makes sense for a money splurge. Haider is designing party wear, and thank god for that. While so many of our radical fashion designers are thinking specifically about what we want to wear to our design offices and studios, Haider wants us to dress up to the nines. Someone needs to.

Junya Watanabe SS 2017: No Accusations of Racism to be Made Here

Junya Watanabe has a couple of off seasons that saw him doing things like devoting a collection to African textiles and having all white guys walk in the show. It didn’t help that Watanabe is a salty guy that seems to hold, if not out right resentment towards the press, than a lingering dismay at having to explain himself to them (not even Purple Mag honcho Olivier Zahm could get much out of the designer when he interviewed him a couple years back).

SS 2017 was a rebound then. Instead of appropriating regional cultures, he looked towards the seedy side of sub-cultures (tattoo artists aren’t going to upset about seeing their looks used in a fashion show I would assume). Most of the models in the show were heavily tattooed (or welding fake tattoos when necessary). This could be boring but it looked cool here, and made these rather simple but incredibly well-made pieces a touch bad ass. The opening shirt and shorts combination is the type of outfit I’d want to wear all summer long. Easy to put on and take off while still making a statement. There was a criminality to this collection, mostly owing to the looks of Russian mobsters. This is also not new, or maybe it is? It seems like a look that has already been fetishized over but Junya made it look fantastic. Russian mobsters when naked look incredibly scary, with their all black grey tattoos symbolizing all manner of nefarious activities. But they clean up well (though he is a movie star and all, look at Viggo Mortensen’s character in David Cronenberg’s incredibly underrated Eastern Promises). But the tattoo motif carried over to the clothes here in the form of prints. There was the usual focus on craft and tradition that Junya has made his career with, collaborating with Levi’s on the wide-leg jeans and jackets, John Smedley knits, and Heinrich Dinkelacker shoes. This was definitely the most wearable of the Paris collections, but pushed by a palatable concept that editors and buyers can read into.

Rick Owens SS 2017: Subtle Evolution in Garment-Body Relations

Rick Owens, as always, put on a SS 2017 show worth noting. Rick has so firmly laid out the aesthetic of his brand that he can pervert that aesthetic subtly or not so subtly and use those perversions to slowly progress the identity of the Rick Owens house. How many designers do we see trying to re-invent the wheel every season only to come up with a bunch of overly-designed workwear products that makes no sense in regards to what people like about that brand in the first place? The Rick Owens universe is set in stone but it’s constantly stretching outwards.

SS 2017 started off predominantly in white featuring a series of looks that appeared like unfinished garments falling off the models’ bodies, taking on movements of their own. Aesthetically, imagine if Varys from Game of Thrones got really fit and managed to find a way for his clothes to dance behind him as he walked. It was hard to even single out individual pieces because they all blended into one hard-to-define look. Big trousers were a theme, and continued to be as the collection progressed and mutated in color. The light wool coach jackets came in brown, a faint shade of orange, mustard yellow and mustard yellow. Then there were some more recognizably Owens pieces: skin-tight leather jacket (one covered in jewel studs), a bomber jacket with fur trim, asymmetrical blazers, and a cut-off trench coat. Most of the jackets were cropped extremely high to the waist, allowing the massive trousers to stand out as the statements pieces of the looks. There was excellent use of prints, such as the cut-off sleeve kimono with a geometrical landscape printed in white to both lapels.

It’s hard to tell if some of the looks in this collection were a result of genius styling or fascinating design, such as the pieces that looked almost like t-shirts wrapped around the model’s body at various limbs. But either styling or design, this was another fascinating Rick Owens show. No designer on Earth is better re-defining the intricacies between the human body and its clothes.

Off-White SS 2017: Virgil Abloh Offers an Inclusive Alternative to Fashion Exclusivity

People have wanted to write off Virgil Abloh as a t-shirt designer from the moment he started Off-White. After designing an incredibly limited edition collection for Levi’s Made and Crafted and a Resort 2017 collection, no one can argue that this man has a grand and wide fashion vision for his Off-White label. But Abloh’s greatest strength is his fandom. He comes at garment design from the perspective of a fashion, music, and culture crazed kid that can’t believe the good fortune he’s met at being able to create his own brand. That exuberance was as infectious as ever at his SS 2017 show.  

The jeans and t-shirt look is still the foundation of Off-White, but Abloh more every season seems to make clear that the sartorial possibilities birthed from that conceptual starting point are endless. From Oasis graphics to see through t-shirts, short-sleeve baggy knits with provocative prints, to loose fitting jackets, Abloh has greatly improved the actual design strengths of his collection. But he also has grander conceptual vision, such as allowing fashion kids into his shows without invites and providing attendees with disposable cameras to give different photographic perspectives on his designs. The turn out for the show was incredible; aside from his usual crew (Luka Sabbat, etc), motherfucking Demna Gvasalia showed up to show Virgil support. Virgil needs to start being referred to as “fashion designer Virgil Abloh” and not “Kanye West’s best friend and creative director Virgil Abloh.”

Louis Vuitton SS 2017: After Years of Looking Abroad, Kim Jones Brings it Back Home

Kim Jones, sometimes referred to as the world’s greatest menswear designer, has looked all over the globe for styles to appropriate at Louis Vuitton. But for SS 2017, he fondly remembers the styles that have most defined him: the African textiles of his homeland, the punk memorabilia he collected by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren while living in London, and the high luxury of his adopted homeland of Paris.

The punk looks worked the best: if I was rich as fuck there is no way I wouldn’t want to spend $3,000 on an ultra-aggressive looking dog collar? There’s no better way to celebrate newfound wealth than with an accessory that says to your boss, “I’m not afraid of you bub, in fact: I’m coming for you.”

Everything Kim does at Louis just looks like clothes that you need to have, and this collection followed in that vein. Even a plaid crewneck looks so perfectly fitted that to not spend $1,000 on it feels like you are depriving yourself. The Sherpa crewnecks, dyed heavily in the prints of African textiles, were showstoppers. Paired with easygoing trousers, they were easily the most “I must have that” garments of Paris Fashion Week. I think that’s the beauty of Vuitton. It is the ultimate example of fashion consumerism, but helmed by a designer like Kim Jones (or Nicolas Ghesqiuere, for that matter), you find yourself sacrificing all of your socialist ideals and just giving into the temptation. True luxury should make you want to abandon your morals and be a part of the ugly machine. Louis Vuitton under Kim Jones goes way beyond a bag with a logo that says nothing about who you are. Not all the pieces are that easy, but they are so incredibly made that you find yourself disregarding that ugly history of fashion oppression. Let greed free you.

Dries Van Noten SS 2017: No One Really Gets Dries, But Everyone Wants to Wear Dries

Dries Van Noten’s FW 2016 menswear collection was a highpoint in his career: an explosive celebration of fashion’s relationship to the psychedelic prints of the 1960s. It was a hard show to top, and though SS 2017 didn’t, it came damn close. This show felt more like a celebration of the possibilities within fabrics themselves. Dries admitted to looking at the textile artists of the ’60s for this collection, finding new ways to drape garments as well as play with volume and proportion. That resulted in something as simple as a mock neck sweater in white looking transcendent: just baggy enough in the body to let the model breathe while the neck looking slightly disheveled and treated. But the textile explorations also worked towards incredible print and dye work. A tank top and shorts looked as close to a landscape painting as fashion gets. It was willfully experimental, but no one would look that weird wearing such an ensemble to the beach.

As always, Dries’ coats were next level, with fabric weaves and lines constructing from a myriad of different directions and concepts. The clothes looked expensive, which is always nice considering they are in fact really fucking expensive. But I’d say the real showstopper here was the knitwear, which looked like it had been weaved by a master from another era just hours before the show: colors and fabrics hanging loose from the seams both finished and unfinished simultaneously. When you look at Antwerp’s other most relevant and long-lasting designer (no shade towards Walter van Bierendonck, but he is starting to feel more kitsch as he gets older) Raf Simons, you see that Dries has gone in another direction that puts the two Royal Academy-trained designers at odds with one another. While Raf is consistently questioning fashion’s purpose and finding revelatory possibilities within fashion as a medium season after season (and making fire clothes all the while), Dries is still infatuated with the beauty wrought from the experimentation of fabric construction and garment design. There is a case to be made for both approaches in regards to what fashion needs right now.

Some Brands Need no Show

Plenty of fashion designers in Paris opted for buyer presentations over shows but nevertheless presented some incredible collections. Takahiro Miyashita, for instance, presented his best collection since leaving Number (N)ine and starting The Soloist, which charted the sartorial evolution of David Bowie but took all Bowie’s looks to the extreme. Phillip Lim’s SS 2017 collection wasn’t pushing any style ideas forward, but he did pretty much sum up exactly how I like to dress in the summer with cool denim pulled up high over perfectly fit short sleeve button downs. And former Balmain creative director Christophe Decarnin’s Faith Connexion is a revelation. With everyone looking tasteful and draped these days (post-Vetements world and all), there is something wonderful about a brand willing to put opulent trash back on the pedestal. With men’s and women’s looks in the show, Decarnin celebrated a kind of stylish ridiculousness that was tempered by a punk edge before veering back into golden Nutcracker absurdity Balmain territory.